Sunday produced an event which seems to be an annual occurrence in the life of the Green Bay Packers. For the fourth straight season and the 10th time in the past 12 years, the Packers clinched a spot in the NFC playoffs.
Looking back a few months, it seemed highly unlikely that the Packers would be playing any more than the 16 regular season games on their schedule. After a 1-4 start, many NFL "experts" had written the Packers off.
In the long history of the NFL, just 12 teams had advanced to the postseason after winning one or fewer games in their first five. When a combination of results from around the league fell their way over the weekend (losses by the New York Giants, Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears), the Packers became first NFC team since the 1983 Detroit Lions to reach the postseason after such a lackluster beginning.
However, upon learning of their advancement in the locker room after a tough 28-25 defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Packers were in no mood to celebrate.
"We lost today and that's all that matters," said guard Marco Rivera. "We can't even think about the playoffs right now. To tell you the truth, that doesn't mean anything to me right now. How are we going to get the Green Bay Packers from losing games? That's what I'm concerned with."
Although the playoff berth was clinched more than three hours earlier, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said he hadn't been doing any scoreboard watching and wasn't aware of the team's qualification for the postseason until just before his post-game press conference. Even then, the coach wasn't overjoyed by the news.
"I didn't know that until a few seconds ago," said Sherman when asked for a reaction to making the playoffs. "Our mission, our goal is to win the division. That's still out there and that's what we're working towards. We certainly didn't help ourselves today, but we still would have to go through Minneapolis and we still have to."
Following the lead of their coach, many players turned their attention to their upcoming Friday afternoon game against the Minnesota Vikings that will decide who will wear the division crown this season.
"No satisfaction, not for me," tight end Bubba Franks said. "It's good to be in the playoffs, that's what you work for. That's going to help us with our second goal, but we still haven't finished our first goal, which is winning this division."
Mike Wahle said that he and his teammates don't necessarily feel they deserve to be in the postseason as of now, that they need to prove on the field that they belong there.
"We want to earn it," said the lineman. "We don't feel like we earned it right now, so we're going to go out there and try to earn it next week."
Kicker Ryan Longwell summed up the feeling of the team regarding the postseason.
"It's exciting (to make the playoffs)," he said. "It's one of your goals on the season, but your main goal is to win the division. That's our goal, (and) it's still out in front of us. (Minnesota) is a tough place to play on a short week, but we have to go up there to Minnesota and get a win."
If the Packers are able to go get that win in Minnesota, it will finish off a tremendous turnaround and get them headed off to the postseason in more appropriate fashion.